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Chestnut Hill tabs Reggie Daniels to maintain WBB momentum

05/15/2023, 1:30pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Reggie Daniels had a choice to make. 

The Hood College (Md.) product spent two years after his 2015 college graduation coaching the junior varsity squad at his high school alma mater, Patterson Mill (Md.), before deciding to go back to Hood and get his master’s degree while serving as a graduate assistant. And he had options: the Blazers’ men’s and women’s teams both had a GA spot available, giving him a pick of which program he’d want to work with the next two years.

Reggie Daniels (above) is the new women's basketball coach at Chestnut Hill. (Photo courtesy Binghamton athletics)

He picked the women, and hasn’t looked back.

“I was like, you know what, I kinda don’t want to coach the men, because I knew how I was as a college basketball player, and what my mindset was during that time,” he said. “It was moreso my personality. I’m very laid back — I’m going to challenge you, but I don’t have to yell at you and constantly nag you to do things and do things the right way. 

“On the women’s side, you tell them something, they grasp the concept and they do it right from now on. I think that made me sway towards coaching women’s basketball more than the men’s side.”

That choice set Daniels on a path that’s taken him from Hood to an assistant coaching role at Stevenson (Md.), then staying in the D-III ranks for his first head coaching job at FDU-Florham (2021-22), up to D-I Binghamton University as an assistant coach for a year and now down to Philadelphia, where he was named last week as the newest women’s head coach at Chestnut Hill College.

It’s his first time coaching at the Division II level, but Daniels feels his time at different spots both D-I and D-III has prepared him for life in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, more commonly known as the CACC. 

“The higher level you go to, the margin for error is very, very slim,” he said, discussing how at the D-III level he might have one day to prepare for the next opponent; at the D-I level, he’d have two or three, if not more. “That preparation, it’s a lot different at the Division I level, and that’s the thing I took with me the most, ability to prepare for a game, fully knowing an opponent and personnel and sets and breaking down things.”

Daniels takes over a program not in transition or rebuilding mode but at the high peak of the program’s relatively brief D-II history, which began when the program transitioned up from D-III in 2007. Mike West built them up from 2015 through 2019, going 19-10 in 2017-18; Jim Connolly took over after West left for Hofstra, going 24-7 (16-2 CACC) in 2021-22, making the NCAA Tournament, and 19-10 (13-4) this past season, the best two-season run by far over the last 15 years.

Connolly stepped aside last month, moving to the D.C. area to be with his fianceé, who works at Walter Reed Medical Center. So it’s on Daniels to keep the momentum going, with three of the Griffins’ top four scorers from a year ago only sophomores, including 6-0 post Emily Chmiel, who led the team in both scoring (11.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg). He will have to replace at least four rotation members from a deep squad — 11 different women started at least six games this year — but there’s certainly a good core to work with to stay near the top of the CACC.

Daniels said he eventually wants to get the program playing faster, transitioning from one that likes to operate in the half-court to one that thrives on full-court press and transition play, but he knows that’ll take time, that he can’t immediately flip the switch from one to the other and keep things rolling.

“I think that the biggest thing that I think right now is uniquely challenging is that I’m going to be coming in as they’re leaving for the summer, so I won’t have that face-to-face time to build that relationship with them, figure out how I need to coach them,” he said. “On the court, getting them to buy into a new system and then explaining the why, why do we do things a certain way, would kind of be the biggest transition. 

“They’re all used to doing things a certain way, and they’ve been good at it [...] I’m going to adapt my coaching style to them and figure out what’s best as we go along.”

It’s no coincidence that Daniels comes from the same town as men’s coach J.J. Butler, that he was one year ahead of Butler at Patterson Mill, the two living a little more than a five-minute walk from one another after he moved from Baltimore to its suburbs right before middle school.

“We’re pretty much family,” Daniels said. “We’re known each other since the sixth grade — we played rec football together, high school basketball together. We’re literally like brothers.”

It was during Butler’s playing years at Chestnut Hill, from 2016-18 as a grad transfer from D-I Lipscomb, that Daniels first connected with CHC athletics director Jesse Balcer, then the Griffins’ head men’s coach. The two stayed in touch over the last six years, becoming friendly on their own, as Balcer transitioned into administration and Butler took over the CHC program three years back.

It was at the CACC playoffs at Jefferson University in March that Balcer, knowing Connolly was preparing to leave, mentioned the pending opportunity to Daniels. Though Daniels had never lived or coached in Philadelphia, he was plenty familiar with the city’s hoops scene, having recruited area talent in all of his collegiate stops, including Binghamton-bound Germantown Academy senior Kendall Bennett

And it sounds like it won’t take him long to feel at home at a Wawa or getting a Dalessandro’s cheesesteak.

“What’s crazy is, I’m actually a Philadelphia Eagles fan,” he said. “NBA-wise, big Kobe Bryant fan so I still stick with the Lakers. College sports wise, my favorite program is Villanova, men’s and women’s basketball. I love Denise Dillon, and Jay Wright is my favorite coach of all-time.”

He’s practically a Philadelphian already.

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